College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After 2020-21 Bowl Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2021

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After 2020-21 Bowl Season

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    While the national championship will soon command our full attention, the 2020 season has come to a close for every program other than Alabama and Ohio State.

    They'll enter the title showdown vying for No. 1, but the remainder of B/R's Top 25 is locked in.

    B/R's five-man panel of experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard—each submitted a Top 25 ballot. A first-place vote counted for 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.


    B/R Post-Bowl Top 25

    1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
    2. Ohio State (3)
    3. Clemson (4)
    4. Notre Dame (2)
    T-5. Texas A&M (6)
    T-5. Oklahoma (7)
    7. Georgia (11)
    8. Cincinnati (5)
    9. Northwestern (14)
    10. Iowa State (16)
    T-11. Indiana (9)
    T-11. BYU (12)
    13. Florida (10)
    14. Coastal Carolina (8)
    15. Louisiana (15)
    16. North Carolina (13)
    17. Liberty (20)
    18. Oklahoma State (24)
    19. Ball State (21)
    20. Miami (18)
    21. Iowa (19)
    22. Texas (23)
    23. USC (NR)
    24. San Jose State (17)
    25. North Carolina State (25)

    Others receiving votes: Buffalo, Wisconsin

    Editor's Note: This article was edited after publish to fix an error in voting.

Who's Hot: Oklahoma Sooners

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    After earning three straight College Football Playoff berths, the Oklahoma Sooners missed out in 2020. Early losses to Kansas State and Iowa State doomed Lincoln Riley's team.

    Get ready for an offseason loaded with hype, however.

    Capped by a 55-20 demolition of Florida in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners ended the season on an eight-game winning streak. They finished 9-2, won a sixth consecutive Big 12 title and finally paired a legitimately strong defense with an efficient offense.

    Obliterating shorthanded Florida was impressive, but the more important note is what Oklahoma brings back in 2021.

    Even without including his 287 yards and four touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl, quarterback Spencer Rattler totaled 3,191 yards and 34 scores in his first season as a starter. The Sooners are likely to return every offensive skill player beyond running back Rhamondre Stevenson, yet 2019 leading rusher Kennedy Brooks plans to return after opting out this season. Plus, the Sooners are expected to only lose a handful of key contributors on defense.

    Oklahoma will be the Big 12 favorite and a popular choice to reach the College Football Playoff in 2021.

Who's Not: The ACC

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Let's be clear: Bowl records are somewhere between meaningless and of little value. This is not a lasting judgment on the ACC.

    But 2020 was not a good postseason for the 0-6 league.

    Alabama had little trouble with Notre Dame, and Ohio State picked apart Clemson. The ACC had two of the four College Football Playoff teams yet won't have a chance at winning a national title.

    Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartmanwho threw one interception in 236 regular-season passestossed a pick on four straight drives in a loss to Wisconsin at the Duke's Mayo Bowl. Miami fell behind Oklahoma State 21-0, lost quarterback D'Eriq King to a torn ACL and had a comeback end short at 37-34.

    North Carolina State committed three turnovers during a 23-21 loss to Kentucky in the Gator Bowl, and shorthanded North Carolina fell to Texas A&M 41-27 in the Orange Bowl.

    Hey, at least Conference USA finished 0-6, too?

College Football Playoff Semifinals

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Rose Bowl Game: Alabama 31, Notre Dame 14

    Although the matchup didn't hit blowout territory until the third quarter, Alabama controlled the Rose Bowl. Quarterback Mac Jones and receiver DeVonta Smith connected for touchdowns on two of the Tide's first three possessions, the second of which immediately answered Notre Dame's lone scoring drive of the opening half.

    "This wasn't a matter of getting knocked off the ball or not having enough players to compete against Alabama," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters. "This was about making plays."

    And the Irish struggled badly in that department.

    Ian Book managed just 5.9 yards per pass attempt, and Notre Dame rushed for 3.7 yards per carry. That's simply not good enough to keep up with an offense of Alabama's caliber.

    Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns, hitting Smith seven times for 130 yards and three scores. In all likelihood, Jones or Smith will be named the Heisman Trophy winner on Tuesday night. Running back Najee Harris also scampered for 125 yards and added 30 receiving yards in the win.


    Sugar Bowl: Ohio State 49, Clemson 28

    As the Buckeyes and Tigers played to a 14-14 deadlock in the first quarter, it seemed a high-scoring shootout was on the way. But the next 15 minutes shaped the outcome.

    Quarterback Justin Fieldswho played through a couple of massive hits, including one from James Skalski that resulted in a targeting call and subsequent ejectiontossed three more scores before halftime. The Buckeyes took a 35-14 lead into the break and left no doubt about which sideline deserved to celebrate.

    "They were the better team and they earned it," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, per Eleven Warriors.

    Ohio State racked up 639 yards of offense (an average of 8.9 yards per play), shredding a great Clemson defense over and over. Fields threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns while running for 42, and running back Trey Sermon piled up 254 yards from scrimmage.

    Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in what was likely his final collegiate game.

National Championship Game: Ohio State vs. Alabama

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    2020 CFP Championship

    Records: Ohio State (7-0) vs. Alabama (12-0)

    When: Monday, Jan. 11

    Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    TV: ESPN

    Ohio State beat Alabama 42-35 in a CFP semifinal six years ago. This time around, there's a national championship at stake.

    Alabama is listed as an eight-point favorite, according to DraftKings.

    On the Buckeyes' side, most headlines leading up to the contest will focus on Fields' health. For Alabama, they'll revolve around Jones, Smith and the Heisman race, as well as Steve Sarkisian. The offensive coordinator has accepted the head coaching job at Texas but still plans to call plays in the title game, per Matt Zenitz of

    Perhaps it's a fitting way for Alabama to transition from Sarkisian's time as coordinator. Four years ago, Sark replaced Lane Kiffinwho had been named the coach at Florida Atlanticbetween a CFP semifinal and the national championship.

    Clemson, however, edged the Tide in that contest. Sarkisian is hoping to leave the program on a better note.


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